Good morning church! Hope everyone is doing okay.
As a Church we’ve been going through a preaching series called “Faith in Action” from the letter of James.
It’s personally been such an enriching and challenging series for my heart personally. It feels like each week that I’ve been shaken up from the comforts of my Christian walk & challenged to evaluate the current status of my faith.
I’m sure similarly this series has been a blessing to you all as well. Right now we find ourselves in the middle of James chapter 3 & “spoiler alert” – this is another challenging passage for us this morning – but as believers, that’s a wonderful thing because we know that these challenging passages turn our hearts back to the gospel.
Let’s dive into it and read the passage once more:
is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works
in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish
ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not
the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every
vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable,
gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
“I thought there was nothing worse that could happen in 2020 and then came the power outage!”
Those were the words of a Mumbaikar that was put out on social media referring to the power grid failure on Monday morning.
And those words I’m sure resonated with many people because it has been a roller coaster of a year for all of us.
Everyone is searching for wisdom on how to make sense of this COVID world. So you’ll find many people from young to old who have turned into philosophers giving their two cents on what they think life is.
In other words, people are using the filter of their own experience to make sense of our world. But how reliable and helpful is this worldly wisdom?
Can I really bank my life’s decisions on quotes that I read on social media or pep talk from my close relatives and friends?
Is there a True Real wisdom available from God to help me deal with the twists and turns of life?
Today’s passage from James 3 will help us recognize True Wisdom. Three things about True Wisdom.
1. True Wisdom is not just about knowledge
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. (v13)
Some of us might be surprised by this verse. What does good conduct and meekness have to do with wisdom?
And that’s because the world defines wisdom as just having a good amount of knowledge in a certain subject or field.
So if someone has done his Phd. in Physics & authored many books, by the standards of the world he is considered a wise man.
Similarly in churches, who is typically considered as a wise person?
Someone who has a lot of biblical knowledge. The way the world views wisdom is amoral (unrelated to morality) & in contrast, this passage tells us that a wise person is not someone who just has biblical knowledge but is also living it out in humility!
And when we read through the letter of James, it does seem like the churches he was writing to was going through some kind of tension where there were people who wanted prominence, viewed themselves as superior compared to others and saw the opportunity of being a leader and teacher in a church as a means to get these things.
And through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, James is telling the whole church….Do you want to know and identify someone who is wise?
It’s not just by their words but by their lifestyle. Humility will be the hallmark of someone who is wise and understanding among you.
I still remember meeting a 77-year old uncle called MC John in Kerala. It was a time in my journey when I was seeking God’s will in ministry and life. It wasn’t a planned meeting.
We probably spent maybe 30 minutes but those 30 minutes changed my life. In those 30 minutes, I realized that this was a man who spent many good years of his life knowing and living for Jesus and even at 77 he was passionately talking about Jesus.
He was like a Bible dictionary quoting verses from all through the Bible but the most remarkable thing that struck me was his humility. His biblical wisdom actually led him to worship.
And that shouldn’t surprise us – right throughout the Bible whenever we see men and women come to terms with the knowledge of God, it leaves them with an acute understanding of their own sin.
True wisdom of God produces humility.
Let’s take a minute to just pause and reflect – some of us either spent few or some of other many years in church circles listening to many sermons, being part of many bible studies,
what do you think all that knowledge is producing in your heart?
Is it producing greater humility in your marriages?
Is it producing greater humility in your relationships at work or with your parents?
Is it producing greater humility in relationships with other believers?
Let’s allow those questions to sink in because it’s important to identify the problem before we look to the solution.
But not only is True Wisdom is not about knowledge
2. True Wisdom is not worldly wisdom
By worldly wisdom I mean wisdom that is shaped by our experiences of the natural world.
14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
I find it interesting that James directly addresses the Root, Source and Fruit of worldly wisdom in these 3 verses.
First, let’s look at the root – it’s selfishness and bitter jealousy.
When we look at the absolute heart of worldly wisdom, it’s rooted in selfishness. It’s putting yourself forward at the expense of someone else.
Now let’s take a look at the source to see how this worldly wisdom actually plays out from v15:
- Earthly – How our main concern tends to be mostly about our life in this materialistic world – we are only thinking about “my school, my college, my job, my promotion, my marriage, my kids, my retirement” – that’s all that our lives are consumed by.
- Unspiritual – Some other versions actually use the word sensual. Which means that this wisdom is controlled by impulses and the sinful desires of my heart. It’s also telling us that our decision making is heavily influenced by how we feel at that moment. I think it can also include the baggage that we carry from our past experiences in this world. Our past baggage – feelings about people and circumstances shapes our worldview.
- Demonic – I think that’s where some of us might think “Time Out bro James. I know you’re telling me all this is worldly wisdom, but to call it demonic?? That’s taking it a little too far” When James is saying demonic he is not trying to say that we are performing some kind of voodoo or strange ritual, but rather I think whenever NT writers talk about demonic influence in the church, it’s a reference to deception which results in abandoning the faith (1 Tim 4:1). In other words, in my selfishness, I can be so blind that I won’t even know that I’m being deceived by this worldly wisdom. I won’t even know that my heart is being hardened. And so the reason I think James is telling in such real graphic details is to warn us from falling into deception thinking that “okay I have some form of godly wisdom so nothing else matters” – no your heart matters, your lifestyle matters & so all these things are mentioned to warn us and also to call us to repentance.
In v16 – he talks about the FRUIT of selfishness and jealousy. Chaos and every kind of wicked deed is fruit!
When we put ourselves in the throne seat of our hearts and think that the world revolves around us, it can cause serious damage. Sometimes in the form of boasting but also sometimes when we play the victim.
A few weeks back I was having a rough week at work. Long hours, demanding work pressure and plus errors were being pointed out in my work by my managers.
As a result of my insecurity and selfishness in my heart, my interpretation of my team members and managers were as “they don’t understand me, they don’t care about me and how I’m doing & they are just out to get me”.
I remember feeling miserable through that week as I was playing the victim. And God had to remind me once again that the problem is more deep-rooted from within – it’s my own selfishness that is causing me to not believe the best about others.
For me that was another clear example to show how my life cannot be shaped by my experiences or worldly wisdom. Because my experiences are flawed and tainted with selfishness.
Let’s take a minute now to reflect on what kind of wisdom is shaping our hearts and lives?
What’s in the root of the wisdom that you have?
Do you see selfishness and bitter jealousy?
In fact on the basis of this passage, we can conclude that I might be even saying some right things from Scripture but if it’s motivated by selfishness, then that wisdom comes from the world and not from God!
I know this is a weighty subject because it’s dealing with our hearts, but it’s also pointing us to Jesus.
Not only is True Wisdom not about knowledge, and not only is True Wisdom not worldly wisdom but
3. True wisdom is God’s grace
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
When we look at v17, what stands out to us is the phrase – wisdom from above is “First pure”.
In other words, purity of heart is what produces peace, gentleness etc.
Now, who among us can say they are pure by themselves? No one.
In fact, the previous verses spoke about how our hearts and lifestyles are motivated by selfishness and jealousy. So obviously purity cannot be produced from within.
And that’s why the phrase “wisdom from above” is a phrase that screams of God’s grace. Because it tells us about God giving us something precious that we cannot produce ourselves.
Guess what the Bible calls Jesus Christ as the “wisdom of God” – God revealed His wisdom to us not just by telling us about His Son but more than that sending His Son Jesus (pure Lamb of God) to live the pure life we could never live, and then He willingly gave up His life on the cross to pay the punishment meant for our impure lives. He rose again on the Third Day so that our hearts and lives can be purified for Him which He has promised to fully complete when He returns back a second time.
So what does this mean for us today?
Firstly it humbles our hearts that feels superior in comparison to others as a result of our “wisdom” & it melts our selfish hearts craving for prominence among others. How does it do that?
By telling us that our condition was so bad that it required the payment of God’s own Son through His death. Imagine going to court and having your sins listed down one by one.
How do we know the seriousness of the crime? By the punishment that is given – how worse is your condition that it could only be paid through the death and sacrifice of Jesus. Like Paul we should humbly acknowledge “I am the chief of sinners”.
But also Grace tells you that God loves you so much that He sent His Only Son to die for you and me.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:32)
That’s amazing, great love! You are loved by God and He sent His Son to show that. So that creates in us this humble purity which now bears fruit in our relationships at home, in church and also where we work or go to school to. (Share examples)
That’s why we need these reminders daily – that True Wisdom is not knowledge, True Wisdom is not worldly wisdom but True Wisdom is God’s grace – revealed through the Person and relationship with Jesus Christ. Only His Work and His promise can produce genuine purity which produces fruits of righteousness!